Bethel Park had seen this before.
Just weeks after blowing a late lead against Woodland Hills, the Black Hawks looked defenseless as Upper St. Clair came storming back after a 16-0 halftime deficit.
But this time, Bethel Park stopped Upper St. Clair quarterback Alex Park and the Panthers before it was too late.
Bre Ford intercepted an Upper St. Clair two-point conversion that would have tied the score with less than three minutes remaining, sealing a 16-14 win for Bethel Park (5-1, 2-0).
"They had the perfect call against our play," Park said.
The Black Hawks blitzed two linebackers, and one of them, Bethel Park senior Adam Lazenga, ran into the Upper St. Clair backfield untouched.
That's when Ford, who scored the Black Hawks' two touchdowns on offense, made the biggest play of the game.
Lined up as a strong safety, Ford was playing man-to-man defense on the two-point try. He followed his receiver closely but perked his head up once he heard some cheering.
"When I heard the crowd, I glanced up and I saw Park under pressure, and I knew he was just going to toss it up," Ford said. "So I just stuck close to my man. When he threw it, I just attacked the ball."
Ford ran for a couple first downs on the ensuing Bethel Park possession to ice the game.
The win was Bethel Park's second consecutive against Great Southern Conference rival Upper St. Clair (4-2, 1-2), which perennially dominates the series.
Early in the game, Bethel Park perplexed Upper St. Clair.
Park was sacked as many times (four) as he attempted a pass in the first half.
"That's a big key to a very good passer is to get some heat on him, and we did that pretty much all night," Bethel Park coach Jeff Metheny said.
Park completed two first-half passes for 16 yards. He finished the night 7 for 10 with 113 yards and a touchdown.
The Bethel Park offense, meanwhile, was efficient, moving down the field a handful of yards at a time.
"Every play we called, there was a hole there," Ford said. "I just had to hit it. It was there almost every time."
Ford's two touchdowns came via a 9-yard run and a 38-yard pass from quarterback Matthew Bliss. The Black Hawks tacked on two more points with a safety after the Panthers snapped the ball through the end zone on a punt attempt. Those two points ended up being the difference in the game.
In the second half, Park opened up the passing game, throwing a 7-yard touchdown to running back Connor Scott with a little more than eight minutes left.
After a two-point conversion, Upper St. Clair trailed by just eight points.
A few minutes later, Park marched the Panthers' offense down the field; this time Scott ran the ball into the end zone from the 2-yard line. The Panthers trailed by two points, and Park and the offense lined up to try to tie the score with a conversion.
That's when Metheny called "Base Stinger," a play that tried to stop Park from running a bootleg. Instead of running free outside the pocket, Lazenga met the quarterback just a few yards behind his offensive line.
"The calls sometimes are overrated," Metheny said. "You gotta have execution. We executed that particular play."
Michael Sanserino can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1722.